In 13 days I will have read the Bible cover to cover. I was supposed to be done on December 31, mind you, but some days I just wasn’t as disciplined as others. And some days, quite honestly, it was difficult to get my mind in the game. Trudging through Lamentations was straight up boring. Wading through Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, was heavy and depressing. And Numbers. So many names and so many minutiae. It was slow going. Very slow going.
But most days, if I had ears to hear and eyes to see, I could easily find a nugget or two to take away and turn over for the day. The other day, the nugget was found in Isaiah 37.
To give a little background, Hezekiah was the thirteenth king of Judah and he did a great deal to restore Judah after a lengthy rule by a very evil king. He reintroduced religious reform into the land, restored the temple and destroyed false idols. Things were going pretty well until King Sennacherib of Assyria entered the scene. Assyria had successfully swept through neighboring lands and conquered every nation in their path. Judah was next on their list and Sennacherib sent Hezekiah a letter saying exactly that.
Hezekiah was understandably afraid and distraught. Facing certain annihilation, he did the only thing he could think of. With a threatening and blasphemous letter in hand…
“…Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.”
I love that phrase. “…spread it before the Lord.” After reading it, I sat on that phrase for a couple days, allowing it to soak in and marinate. It didn’t take long for something to occur to me.
I imagined Hezekiah. I imagined him on his knees spreading papers out on the floor of the Lord’s house. I visualized the posture and process that would require. Then I thought of what I would need to do to spread out or unroll my fears, my worries, my pain before the Lord. And I came to the conclusion that such petition necessitates three very distinct and very important things.
1. Get Low
When I picture myself spreading something out, whether it’s papers on a desk or a quilt on my bed, there’s one thing that’s consistent. My posture is never upright. In fact, it isn’t possible to lay something out and remain upright. It requires bending and lowering yourself to reach the farthest edges. In order to spread something out, you have to get low.
This is even more important when what we’re laying out is our needs, our petitions and our hearts before our Heavenly Father. The very act of bringing our fears and worries before God in prayer requires a humble heart. A heart that recognizes its own frailty and weakness. With heads bowed, prayer is the admission that what we want and need is out of our reach and beyond our own ability to attain. When we approach God with meekness and humility, we acknowledge that only He is capable of assuaging our fears and providing what we need most.
2. Get Slow
We live in a fast world. Just last week, the phone company in our area installed cable that would allow even faster Internet access. Cars are made faster every year. Ads boast about faster delivery, faster service, faster everything. In a culture that craves speed, slowing down is challenging.
When it comes to prayer, slow isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a necessity. Conversations with our Father should be long and detailed. They should be thorough with nothing left unsaid. Far too often, we treat our prayers like outgoing mail or an office memo. We jot down our requests and slip them through the mail slot as we’re walking by. But instead, our Father invites us to enter in and sit with Him. He implores us to be fully present, taking time and thought to spread out our needs and desires. And such thoughtful, intentional petition only happens when we slow down.
3. Get Real
I imagine that when Hezekiah spread out that letter before the Lord, he didn’t strategically cover some of the paper. He didn’t scatter rocks over particular words or phrases. He made sure every inch of it was exposed. Every page, every sentence, every word. He hid nothing.
I wish the same could always be said of us. What if, when we laid out our needs before God, we held nothing back? What if we stripped our requests of pride and selfish ambition? What if we owned our jealousy and confessed impure motives? What if we were honest and raw? Far too often, I approach God with one hand behind my back, concealing the ugliest parts of me, hoping He won’t see. For some reason, we buy into the lie that if God saw all of it, if we presented the bad with the good, our requests would fall on deaf ears. That somehow God will be less inclined to listen if our needs are wrapped in filth. In fact, it is just the opposite. God loves and God listens because of our filth, not despite it. Our inferiority allows God’s grace and mercy to shine even brighter. As Paul so eloquently put it in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “…for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Spreading out our fears and worries before the Lord requires us to disclose everything. It requires us to show it all, no matter how unsightly or broken. It requires us to be real before our Father.
Life this side of heaven is hard. Every day we break and bruise. And every day we need God. We need His help, His grace, His mercy. It’s all there, all available to us. All we need to do is ask.
Hezekiah, in the face of his greatest threat and in the moment of his greatest need, spread out his petition before the Lord. He carried his fears straight to the temple and unloaded every single one of them, humbly, slowly and thoughtfully, in the presence of his Father. It’s an incredible lesson for all of us. When we are in the presence of what most threatens or scares us, we need to remember to get low, get slow and get real as we appeal to the one who knows us, loves us and is waiting to help us.